Nowhere have the Pittsburgh Steelers invested more heavily in terms of drafting and developing than they have along the offensive and defensive lines over the course of the past decade—or at least drafting and developing with success. The Steelers are a franchise who views building from the inside out as the key to a solid foundation.
And they have produced among the best offensive and defensive lines in the league as a result, including four total Pro Bowlers among them—five if you include T.J. Watt as an edge defender in their base nickel defense. Then there’s Cameron Heyward, and along the offensive line, all multiple-timers in Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Alejandro Villanueva. The rest are no slouches, either.
Winning in the trenches—both offensively and defensively—are critical in any NFL game. You can’t do much on offense if you can’t block. You can’t stop much on defense if you can’t shed blocks, or open gaps for the second and third levels to make plays, or to put pressure on the quarterback.
That is one of the areas on which head coach Mike Tomlin focused when reviewing Monday’s game against the Miami Dolphins. He spoke about it both in his press conference after the game and in his pre-game press conference for the next game a day later.
On Tuesday afternoon, he focused mainly on the fact that they “established a run game in ways offensively that we hadn’t done to this point in the season”. His remarks were more elaborate the night before, so we can work our way back to that.
“I thought a significant element of [the victory] was that we won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball”, he said. “When you’re doing that, as the game wears on, it has a chance to be more significant. We were in manageable third downs, we were able to possess the ball, we were able to put them in some unfavorable third downs, so that’s how it kind of unfolded”.
Tomlin also specifically highlighted the 97-yard touchdown drive that the Steelers were able to score following a Minkah Fitzpatrick interception. “I was probably referring to that drive, just largely, when I was talking about how it became more evident we were winning the line of scrimmage as the game wore on”, he said.
“That’s what you want. That’s what you strive for. It’s also important that you get stops subsequently after that in an effort to build upon it”, he said. “And I thought we were able to do both”.
While the Steelers have been able to add talent around these two pillars of their roster, they have largely remained unchanged over a number of years. And their continued success will be critical as they try to make a push to enter the postseason after starting the season in an 0-3 hole.